Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tsujita LA: Artisan Noodles and Izakaya

This small, new restaurant on Sawtelle got a false start before finally making big waves in the LA food scene. While the sign clearly says "Tsujita LA: Artisan Noodles", they initially did not have noodles - they apparently were still working on perfecting that part. Now, they only serve their noodles (ramen and tsukemen) for lunch, and at dinner service it turns into an izakaya. Even so, almost immediately after, the twitterverse was filled with talks of the tsukemen.

At Tsujita, the tsukemen, which means "dipping noodles", is a bowl of slippery, chewy noodles and a bowl of thick, rich broth made by simmering bonito, sardines, pork bones, chicken bones, and vegetables for 12 hours. The fishy bonito flavors predominate and the richness can stick to your ribs - both of which make this tsukemen unforgettable.

Pictured is the Ajitama Tsukemen which is served with a boiled egg and costs $10.95, or $13.95 with chashu.

Originally the sign instructs you to eat 1/3 of the noodles with the broth, then mix in shichimi and eat another 1/3, and lastly to squeeze lime into it and mix it again (traditionally it is served with sudachi, but I guess you can't get that in LA). For some reason, they had taped off the 2nd instruction for the shichimi.

The Hakata tonkotsu ramen is rather special as well, as it was developed with the help of Tanaka-shoten, a famous ramen-ya in Tokyo (the printed seaweed is a signature of Tanaka ramen). I had Tanaka ramen when it popped up at Mitsuwa and it was quite a good bowl of ramen - good noodles and chashu, but the broth is not as thick or rich as some others.
Tonkotsu Ramen
It was a very solid bowl of ramen, but when having it together with the tsukemen for the first time, the tsukemen inevitably sticks more (in your brain and in your ribs).

The dinner-time izakaya shouldn't be passed over, as it still provides a great alternative to the old Sawtelle options. Never mind the online menu as it doesn't seem to be up to date. When I went recently, they had seasonal items like the buri daikon (old yellowtail with radish stew).
Buri Daikon
I fell in love with this dish at Shibucho, where I was told that daikon tastes best in the winter. Indeed, even though the yellowtail was a little tough, the daikon was amazingly sweet.

Standars like tamagoyaki, agedashi tofu, and yakisoba are also available. I tried the salmon ochazuke which was served differently than what I was used to. The ochazuke was actually served with a plate of salmon sashimi. You're supposed to dip the salmon into the sesame sauce to the right, then into the broth to be eaten with the rice.
The sashimi itself wasn't of the same quality as nearby Kiriko, but all in all it was a perfect dish for a chilly night.

Tsujita's tsukemen may be too strong or fishy for some, but if you don't think that will deter you, then it is a definite must-try. I hope they'll start serving the noodles at dinner, too, although I also hope they will keep their izakaya-style dishes on.

Tsujita LA
2057 Sawtelle Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90025
(310) 231-7373
Tsujita LA Artisan Noodle on Urbanspoon


Gourmet Pigs   © 2008. Template Recipes by Emporium Digital